WASHINGTON, March 16, 2017 – The proposed Trump administration budget released today includes deep cuts to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which protects more than 1,500 endangered species and manages millions of acres of public lands, including national wildlife refuges.
The budget proposes to cut overall funding for the Department of the Interior by 12 percent, roughly $1.5 billion, from 2017 funding levels.
“These budget cuts are almost certainly a disaster for America’s most imperiled wildlife,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even before the proposed cuts, federal funding for endangered species was a fraction of what is needed. Scientists agree that we’re in the midst of the earth’s sixth great extinction crisis that threatens to unravel the web of life we all depend on, yet year after year the federal government allocates paltry little to saving species from extinction.”
The Endangered Species Act has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection from extinction and put hundreds on the road to recovery. Scientists estimate that without the Act, 227 species would have gone extinct by 2006.
The Act’s impressive track record of success is even more remarkable considering Congress only provides approximately 3.5 percent of the funding the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own scientists estimate is needed to recover these species. Roughly 1 in 4 species receives less than $10,000 a year toward their recovery. The additional cuts proposed by the Trump administration likely mean these and many other species will get even less help.
“The Endangered Species Act is the world’s foremost conservation law, but it can only save species if it is properly funded,” said Greenwald. “Making deep cuts to a department that oversees the survival and recovery of endangered species certainly takes us in the wrong direction – which sadly could mean the extinction of more of America’s precious wildlife.”
The cuts will likely hit the listing program, which provides endangered species protections to additional species, particularly hard. The Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a workplan to consider protections for hundreds of species over the next seven years, including the monarch butterfly, Pacific walrus and American wolverine, but it is now an open question whether the agency will be able to carry out this plan. Delays in protection of species have been a persistent problem that is likely to only worsen if the proposed budget is adopted. Already, more than 40 species have gone extinct waiting for protection.